‘Madness Return’ a worthy successor for insane original

After 11 years, American MacGee has released the sequel to 2000’s “Alice.” The game picks up quite a few years after the events of the first installment, when Alice is institutionalized in a London asylum. While out exploring, she is pulled into Wonderland and is briefed by the Cheshire Cat about ruination coming to Wonderland.

Here, Alice learns about shrinking and how it will help her get through small holes and reveal secrets in a violet-tinged lens. Players will also learn quickly that there are all sorts of hidden collectables that are only viewable from this state, not to mention hidden platforms.

Alice will traverse huge and gorgeously rendered vistas that are insanely pleasing to the eye, as well as large platforming areas. One of the greatest strengths of the game is how the platforming and jumping works, which is a major leap forward from the first game. Leaping through the air works only because there are ways to catch yourself. Double-jumping? Try quad-jumping. Mix that in with gliding in the middle of any jump and the mechanics just sing.

Another improvement from the first game is the combat. Using a Zelda-inspired lock-on mechanic that works well for Alice, combine mild acrobatic jumping and dodging, and you’ve got a pretty basic combat system that works. While there is only one melee attack button, the other button is for the pepper grinder (the ranged weapon). The grinder is good for shooting switches, as well as the flying pig snouts that populate the landscape. Shooting these allows secrets to appear, and even health pick-ups.

The Vorpal blade (the butcher knife from the first game) also makes a violent return. This is easily the best weapon in the game, as it makes quick, bloody slashing motions that carve up enemies with ease.

Along the adventure, Alice meets old faces such as the caterpillar and the Mad Hatter. The Mad Hatter levels in the first section of the game are the most memorable; they combine skill with speed platforming, and a little bit of action to break it up. The whole smelting factory is a really cool idea for Wonderland, and having to put the Mad Hatter back together is a pretty neat twist.

The deliciously twisted landscape has to be mentioned, as it seems that a lot of care has gone into the creation of Wonderland and the hiding of its secrets. Think of it this way, if your childhood was a little imposing (scary even), but the wonder of wandering aimlessly through the woods was worth it, this game is for you. Except this time, the scary wonder of the woods is replaced with demonic doll creatures that want you dead and all your old woodland friends are either twisted as well, or broken and battered.

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Playing this game on Halloween may be a good idea, as some of the designs are just plain creepy and violent, perfect for a night of scary gaming.